Archive for December, 2007

Huckabee: I am too principled to run attack ads.
December 31, 2007

But here’s the one I was going to run but decided not to. Take a look.

And if you guys want to run it on your networks for free, feel free to. I’m not stopping you. I just won’t pay money for it. Because I am a man of principle.

You know it’s one thing for Huckabee to make a patently false claim about something predicated on the assumption that the boys on the bus aren’t going to make a big fuss about fact-checking or running a story with real depth. Campaigns do that all the time, and it works for them. But when a candidate tells them that he’s refusing to run a dirty ad and then spends the rest of the press conference trying to get free media for that ad, that’s just insulting their intelligence. I have a feeling that Huckabee is going to pay a price.

It’s funny, in some ways Huckabee’s entire campaign has been leading up to this. He’s been testing the boundaries of the press corp’s patience for a while now and it’s just now that he’s stepping over the line.


A New Year’s treat from Mitt Romney
December 31, 2007

Mitt Romney makes my favorite campaign ads out of either party. They’re weirdly lifeless and unintentionally hilarious on a level that Mike Gravel can only dream of. In a way, they’re so artificial and inherently dishonest, that there’s almost a weird sort of honesty about them. Like, “This is who I am; a vapid, malevolent android who long ago cashed in any principles I once had to produce the funding to bring you this campaign message.” Most of the time they don’t even have issues in them – whereas other candidates at least try to appeal to their base by saying they support various pet issues, Mitt Romney just says words that sound nice. He guys, he likes life! And conservatives! That’s us!

Take a look at this newest campaign offering:

Now I didn’t catch the whole ad because somewhere ten seconds in my brain regressed to that of a toddler, but the first ten seconds are all that really interest me about this ad anyway. The first thing you’ll notice is that the ad probably reminds you of the movie Beowulf, in which an animation team armed with expensive computers tried, and failed, to replicate real human facial expressions and movements, plunging us deep into uncanny valley territory. The other thing you’ll notice is that people keep telling Mitt Romney about all these problems that are too big for Washington politicians.

That’s kind of a weird thing to complain about to a presidential candidate, isn’t it? Who else, besides Washington politicians, is constitutionally empowered to pass legislation on immigration? Do these people (whoever they are) really believe that Washington politicians are powerless to do anything to grow our economy? If you look closely enough at this ad, it sounds an awful lot like an argument for anarchy.

Or maybe I’m reading waaaaaay too much into this. After all, Romney wants to defend life with us! Together! Yay!

December 31, 2007

Atrios has endorsed Edwards for the Iowa caucus. I don’t expect that to do a lot, since most of Atrios’s readers have probably already made up their minds at this juncture, but I thought it was cool. And noteworthy, since you’ll probably see a handful of other big endorsements from liberal bloggers soon.

On the downside, I just found another reason why there’s no way Edwards can win. Check out the title of this post. Doesn’t have the same ring to it as Obamalocity at all. It is issues like these, not healthcare or Iraq, that will decide the all-important media primary.

Creeping Boltonism
December 30, 2007

Via Andrew Sullivan (Who reads Hugh Hewitt so we don’t have to):

HH: Governor Romney, one of the first tasks for a conservative in the White House will be to get control of the Department of State, and the Central Intelligence Agency, that keep turning out these NIE’s and leaking things. Do you have the capacity to do that?

MR: You know, there’s nothing more political than corporate America. And you have to be able to rein in those individuals that are, if you will, doing things that harm our national interests. And I’ve watched with some concern over the past weeks, and years, frankly, it’s going to be very difficult to turn around our State Department, and get it to respond to the position that the President would take. John Bolton’s recent book, Surrender Is Not An Option, is a good inside look at how disruptive and counterproductive our efforts in the U.N., or our efforts at the State Department can be. But that is something which I’m up to, and I’m looking forward to.

Got that? If you’re pursuing a disastrous foreign policy and your intelligence service releases information showing just how totally off-base you are, the obvious thing to do is censor that agency more thoroughly. That’s one thing. But what really grabbed my attention about this quote is that Romney is apparently reading  John Bolton’s latest book. Which got me thinking – which other presidential candidate has been reading that again?

Oh, right. Duh.

Josh also gives a good rundown of how destructive Bolton’s been over the past few years, so I recommend watching the whole thing.Obviously Romney didn’t slip Bolton’s name into the interview just for the hell of it – he’s way too smart for that, and he can assume that Hewitt’s audience is an avid enough member of the GOP faithful that they know Bolton’s name. So this is his signal to the war hawks that by taking Bolton seriously he’s willing to be just as flat-out crazy on foreign policy as Rudy Giuliani is. Not only are the GOP candidates clamoring for the Reagan mantle, but now they’re fighting over who likes John Bolton more. Be afraid.

Was Ann Coulter unavailable?
December 29, 2007

A lot of people have been pointing out the stupidity of the New York Times’ recent decision to pick up the tab for Bill Kristol’s career life support. But it’s a decision too patently ridiculous for me to not throw in my two cents.

On the one hand, I can sort of understand the rationale behind such a hire. The Times op-ed page is frequently derided as too liberal – or even socialist – by the conservative media (using a strange sort of math that makes Tom Friedman a foreign policy liberal and assumes Maureen Dowd has any kind of political convictions besides a love of Beltway high school gossip). What the Times needs, then, is another David Brooks – a self-styled conservative “intellectual.” Kristol’s cultivated an image as such an intellectual. And there’s got to be somebody in the Times headquarters reading all of the negative reactions to their recent hiring and smugly deciding that if the paper is now pissing off both the left and the right, they must be doing something right.

I wouldn’t really call Brooks an intellectual, but at least he has some ability to form opinions independent of the Republican Party. A good op-ed columnist should be able to do that – after all, Times official policy is supposed to bar columnists from outright endorsements. As my favorite NYT columnist, Paul Krugman, said in a recent interview: “In principle, you don’t even know which party I favor.”

There’s no question which party Bill Kristol favors. The guy is a pure GOP talking point machine, through and through. He’s spent the last seven years as a mouthpiece for the Bush administration and when the GOP picks a nominee he’ll be that nominee’s unofficial press secretary throughout the rest of the election.

Despite the image of himself that Kristol has tried to cultivate, he’s no intellectual. I’m still waiting for evidence that he’s even sentient.

Sympathy for the devil
December 28, 2007

You’ve really got to feel sorry for Mitt Romney right now. This is the guy who is [probably] going to be the Republican nominee and yet he is beset on all sides by indignities within his own party.

Romney’s main pitch is that he’s a good synthesis of the three legs of the Republican stool, as he’d call it – the corporate lobby (that one’s not hard to explain and is perhaps the only thing he’s been consistent on throughout his entire career), the theocons (due to his willingness to ditch his previously moderate positions on social issues and wage an all-out pander assault on Christian fundamentalists), and the foreign policy neocons (due to his constant attempts to out-Giuliani Giuliani with mindless blather about radical Jihadists and doubling the size of Guantanamo).

The latest slew of attack ads from the Romney campaign show how little large voting blocs of the Republican Party are buying this pitch. Why settle for a Mormon faux-fundamentalist who used to actually tolerate gay people when you can have Mike Huckabee? Why have John McCain’s foreign policy-lite when you can have the actual John McCain? Romney may have been able to take out a piece of Giuliani’s advantage by feigning the über-hawk, but McCain’s been pretty consistent about that all along.

So now Romney is in a weird position – beset by Huckabee in Iowa and McCain in New Hampshire. And things are getting even more awkward now that McCain is aggressively campaigning in Iowa this week too. The thing is, even this could be part of the cutting-down-Romney-in-NH strategy; Josh thinks that McCain is hoping a third-place finish in Iowa would give him momentum into the granite state. We’ll see how doable this is – I’m skeptical that either Huckabee or McCain can unseat Romney in the end since they’ve got little appeal outside of their own legs of the stool – but what’s remarkable here is that Romey is being forced to run attack ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.

In particular, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Romney now that he’s been forced to actually acknowledge McCain in New Hampshire. The schandenfreude kind of overwhelms the sympathy, but it’s still there. Massachusetts governors aren’t supposed to have to fight for New Hampshire and the fact that up until a few weeks ago all McCain was doing at the debates was taking up valuable podium space compounds the embarrassment.

As I’ve said before, I still expect Romney to be the nominee. But what’s happening right now is that two other insurgent candidates are draining all of the GOP enthusiasm out of a Romney candidacy, which is going to make mobilizing the base really hard for him in a general election. And we get to see him sweat a little bit – I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t entertaining.

The Music Page
December 27, 2007

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about this. Today I used GarageBand to add some surprisingly realistic-sounding bass to two of my songs (and flute to one of those), created Veritosity’s music page and uploaded the whole thing onto the Internet. Stressing that these are demos, I’m still pretty happy with how they turned out. I hope you like them too. If I get some positive feedback on these songs, I’ll probably start posting more up and they’ll become a regular fixture of the site.

The two songs that are up right now are Thomas Paine, which is an old one of mine and The New Conformity, which was inspired a lot by the folk-punk sound of early Against Me! stuff.

I don’t know about the flute in “Thomas Paine.” Let me know what you think in the comments. I’ve got a version without flute that I might switch it with.

Earth-shattering political commentary – now with a kickass soundtrack!
December 27, 2007

Ali and I recorded a demo of one of my other songs tonight, and I’m pretty pleased with it. This is one of my favorite songs I’ve written, and I hope you’ll like it too. It will be going up on the new music page tomorrow, along with two older songs from back in this blog’s Blogspot days. But first, tomorrow (or today, technically) I’m going to mess around with all of them in GarageBand a little bit and try adding some bass with my keyboard. Maybe some other instruments too, to try and fill out the sound since they all sound very distinctly like demos right now. If it sounds good, I’ll load it up. If it doesn’t, then I’ll still load it up but with a bunch of disclaimers about how these are demos and if I actually had a full band with me they would be a lot better. Stay tuned.

Countdown to Iowa
December 26, 2007

Don’t expect a lot of posts about politics until January 3rd. I’ll still be posting here regularly, but it’s going to be more about other things. Frankly, the American election process, particularly during primaries, is an obscene, farcical, unsettling process and if it weren’t so damn important the only thing motivating my interest in it would be a sort of sick rubber-necking fascination. Primaries in particular make people who should be natural allies pissy. You can see that in my last Obama post, where I came off sounding like kind of a dick. Truth be told, I expect Obama to get the nomination and he’ll be a fine candidate. Obama volunteers, for the most part, seem to be a great, committed, engaged group of people. I still stand by what I said in regards to the rhetoric of a handful of pro-Obama pundits, but what got lost somewhere in the post is that on 90% of what’s happening I’m on the same side as the pro-Obama people – the biggest difference is that they see something in him I don’t. And especially given that I think he’s going to win, I hope they’re right and I’m wrong.

So I’ve got some serious election fatigue right now. And barring any earth-shattering events over the next week, all we’re going to be getting is these irritating and pointless “closing arguments” from the press and each campaign – who’s got the experience, who can bring about the most change, who’s got the biggest legislative dick, and so on. By now we already know all these people, so it’s hard to care.

After Iowa though, it’s back to blogging politics full-steam. I may have a big announcement coming up regarding how I’m planning to ramp up this blog’s primary coverage, but I’m going to save it for after Iowa.

Spreading holiday cheer
December 25, 2007

Happy Festivus, everyone. Also have a great Saturnelia or however you observe the Winter Solstice. And to our Christian friends and neighbors, a good Christmas too. There are plenty of blogs that are taking a break from politics right now to do some old-fashioned Christmas-time introspection, but I’m not really interested in that. Instead, I’m just going to tell you some of the things that are making me happy right now. Let’s assume that friends and family are a given and I can’t recommend that you purchase those on Amazon. So instead here are some things I’ve experienced that can easily make you happy too:

Ulysses, by James Joyce
When I went to the Jack Kerouac exhibit at the New York Public Library a couple weeks ago, I saw a page from Kerouac’s notebook that had scribbled in bold letters at the top: “ULYSSES IS THE BEST BOOK EVER.” So it was inevitable that as soon as I finished the book I was on at the time (The Sun Also Rises – I’ve been making an effort to go back and read all the classics I should have already read by now) I was going to take a crack at it. It’s probably not advisable without taking a college course on the book simultaneously due to the sheer density of it, but considering how much I loved A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I figured it was worth the slog.

If you haven’t read it yet, you should. I don’t have the literary background or education to try saying anything new or interesting about Ulysses – especially when I’m nowhere near finished with the book – so instead I’ll leave you with the wise words of esteemed literary critic Harold Bloom, who once said, “Ulysses is totally awesome.”

The I’m Not There Soundtrack
For the first time ever, my family’s going for the whole Jewish Christmas ceremony this year, which means Chinese food and a movie later tonight. That means I’m finally going to get to see I’m Not There. In the meantime, let it be known that the soundtrack is amazing – two discs of Bob Dylan covers by some of the few bands that should be trusted with Dylan songs. I haven’t given it a thorough listen, but I think the high mark of the whole album so far is The Hold Steady’s cover of “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” Maybe it’s because, as regular readers of the blog may know, The Hold Steady is one of my favorite bands and I heard their version of the song first, but it doesn’t sound like a great band covering a Bob Dylan song so much as it sounds like Bob Dylan wrote a Hold Steady song and it was just sitting around waiting for them to show up and play it.

Once and Oldboy
Two great movies I’ve been meaning to see for a while that I’ve finally gotten to see in the past week. I probably wouldn’t recommend both of them to the same people, but I thought they were both fantastic. Once is described as “charming” a lot, but that really does disservice to the movie. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful in a way that will remind you of every stupid, aching, unachievable crush – at least until the music kicks in and the movie suddenly becomes weightless and you remember why music is so great in the first place. If you play an instrument or write your own songs I can pretty much guarantee you’ll want to whip out either and get to work once the credits start rolling.

The weird thing is, I tried listening to the soundtrack and some of the music of The Frames (of which the lead songwriter/actor is the frontman) and I couldn’t enjoy it that much outside of the context of the movie. But when you see the performances that go along with the music and how it ties into the evolving relationship of the two main characters, it becomes a lot better.

Unlike Once, Oldboy is not heartwarming or life affirming in any sense of the word. Oldboy is a brutal, messed up mindfuck of a movie. Three days after I watched it, it was still blowing my mind. The ending sticks with you like a bad taste in your mouth, but in a good way – what I thought was going to be a relatively straightforward if really well-done revenge story took all kinds of crazy twists and turns including one key plot twist that I actually saw coming from miles away but dismissed as way too absurd to actually happen – the fact that it not only did end up happening but was integrated into the movie in a way that not only made sense but seemed inevitable is a real testament to the strength of the writing and direction.

And if you’re a fan of fight scenes that actually look like a fight instead of just a meticulously choreographed martial arts demonstration, check out the now-famous hallway battle:

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